Taking on electrical projects generally is not a good DIY idea. You think you can handle it fine, and save some money. The main questions for a home handyman, though, are safety and electrical codes. The most common electrical code violations can be big problems or small problems, but they are all about safety for good reasons. Electrical codes are in place to make you home and everyone in it as safe as possible.
The National Electrical Code (NEC) handbook is long and detailed. It has information and codes for seemingly millions of scenarios. There are some common violations, though, ones you can avoid with a little extra DIY know-how.
Improper or No Circuit Breakers
Circuit breaker boxes have switches which will trip, or turn off automatically, to stop electricity to a whole electric system, or just part of it, as in one circuit. This is an important safety element to an electric system. When a switch gets tripped, it has to be reset manually. Some circuit breakers are capable of resetting without a manual reset. Making a mistake with installing a circuit breaker or not bothering to install one at all will result in code violations. More importantly, this is putting your family and property at risk from electrical and fire danger.
Neutral Wires with the Right Lights
Most automated light switches must have neutral wires. Switches without a neutral wire will give only incandescent lighting. If you’re putting in LED, fluorescent or other lighting at under 20 watts, you must use a neutral wire. Not doing this is a code violation.
The function of a neutral wire is the completion of the 120-volt circuit, which it completes by supplying a secure route back to the electric panel. The protected neutral wire connects and bonds to the ground to stop unexpected electrocution.
Not Installing Tamper Resistant Receptacles
As of 2014, the NEC code says all new or renovated homes must have approved tamper resistant receptacles with spring-loaded coverings that protect ports in the receptacles. When you put a plug into a tamper resistant receptacle, it compresses both springs so that shutters open and fit the plug’s steel prongs. Since two springs need to be pressed simultaneously, a kid placing something into just one opening will not trigger electricity. Even if you don’t have children, a new or renovated house needs to have this type of receptacles.
Too Few Receptacles
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports about 50,000 home fires occur a year in the U.S. due to overloading a circuit. More receptacles help this issue. If there aren’t enough outlets in a room or area, someone might use extension cords or power strips improperly or for too many devices. Indications of overloaded circuits, which could lead to a fire, are dimming/blinking lights, a breaking tripping multiple times or a slight shock when plugging something into an outlet.
Uncovered Outdoor Receptacles
If you’ve got outdoor receptacles with no, or often unused, coverings, this is an electrical code violation. It’s easy to forget or never think of this, but unprotected receptacles are exposed to weather, debris and moisture, and they can become a hazard. This is a code violation which could even delay the sale of a property or decrease the value of it.
Not Using GFCI Outlets
The National Electric Code requires ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) on outdoor receptacles and any new or renovated bathrooms, kitchens, unfinished basements and crawlspaces. Ground faults happen when electricity escapes circuitry and takes a more direct path to the ground. That path can be through a person and be a very dangerous electrocution.
If you have electric wiring or components more than 50 years old in a home, congrats to the original electrician or builder. However, this is quite likely to be in violation if the electric wiring is from before 1970. Lightweight aluminum electrical wiring commonly utilized in the 70s might be safe however it can cause safety problems if it’s attached to copper wiring. Older residences with aluminum wiring will possibly require an inspector to inspect it to approve it has been effectively installed. This is a challenging task for a DIY project and best left for an expert electrician.
Messed Up Panels
A DIY’r might try to “fix” a breaker that trips too often by replacing the breaker with a larger capacity breaker. This is a code violation. More important, it’s very dangerous. Overall, it’s against code to have a panel configured incorrectly. Each breaker switch must be matched right to the right load capacity and wire. A larger breaker will allow more electric current to flow. This can be a fire hazard or a danger to the whole home’s electric system.
It is a code violation to splice wires outside a junction box. Splicing two wires together must be located inside a junction box. It’s best to use junction boxes wherever is needed, run the wires inside appropriately and use wire nuts for the splice at the right location.
New Devices, Old Wires
Putting in new fixtures, most often lighting fixtures, but using old wires creates major issues and code violations. New lights reach about 190-200 degrees. Old wires were made to run at 140 degrees. To follow code and have the right fire safety, use new wires with a splice box. If you have wires from 1987 or before, it is required and much safer to replace them.
When is it a Good Time to Call an Electrician? Your best bet? Hire an expert to do the job. South End Electric has the background and understanding to ensure a safe and smooth installation. We can provide everything you need when thinking about a whole home generator for your home and family. Our professionals provide whole-house generator sales and installation to meet your needs. See everything South End Electric can do for you. Call us direct at 704-368-4694.